Throughout ancient history, at the very core of every civilization, the storyteller has persisted. It’s changed as the millenniums have melted, empires rising and falling, the modern world adapting. But the storyteller, the wise figure stoking the fire and capturing the youth that sit before him, is everlasting.
Our professor Jerry Hicks is, at his heart, a storyteller. He is one of the finest of this age. Or any. His tales come in Facebook posts or long conversations, nary any context because the context comes once his stories are over. They come in rhythms, in stops and starts and flowing rivers that only a lifelong writer could perfect.
If you gather round that hearth and listen to Hicks spin one of his many tales, you’ll laugh. You may even cry. But most importantly, days and weeks and months down the line, a phrase or message from that story will drift across your mind because it’s stuck itself there, and you’ll find yourself thinking back to the man by the fire.
Hicks’s stories, whether they be snapshots of his day, crooning love stories or long-winded life lessons, have forever changed us as editors and as people.
This May 2022 issue of ChapBook Magazine is dedicated to him, the professor that’s transformed students at Chapman University for 17 years.
He’ll be taking a break next fall. ChapBook will have a new man tending the hearth. The magazine will look forward to him being back in the semesters to come. But for now, we co-editors – as much as he’d hate us boasting about what a wonderful professor and spirit he is – want to take this span of words and thank him.
Luca Evans would have no concept of how to write a nut graf without Hicks. It has utterly transformed him as a writer. More importantly, though, Hicks has encouraged him to think about the truly special things in life and to not hold back, and he’s a more caring and loving person for it.
Ali Davenport never expected to have such a special relationship with a professor. Hicks told her last class that he doesn’t know how he’ll live without her. She doesn’t know how either. She wants him to know how much seeing him every week meant to her, how much she’ll miss him, and how grateful she is for his encouragement.
His time teaching at Chapman may be ending for now, but the friendships will last a lifetime.
As much as he loves this magazine, it’s never been just about ChapBook with Hicks. It’s a whole lot more.
If you’ve ever had him as a professor, you’d know that he brings a deliciously curious mix of off-brand snacks into the library basement classroom every week. Perhaps even a bucket of KFC chicken. The sign on the door says you’re not supposed to eat in there, but Hicks doesn’t give two shakes. He makes the classroom feel comfortable.
We’ll always appreciate the laughs at Zito’s, where the pizza was always on him. No question. We remember the Halloween costume competitions, nutella parties, the “just checking in” emails, the wry smiles and delightfully hearty chuckles.
He’s no pushover. He might be the hardest professor you’ve ever had, especially if you make an error that even the Imperial penguins in Antarctica could’ve caught. But damn if he won’t change your life, in ways big or small, once the class is through.
Thanks to Hicks, our storyteller stoking the fire, our mentor, our friend. We’ll miss these Wednesday nights with you.
Luca and Ali